I’m Disappointed…?

disappointPaul wrote, “Speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15). Thus…

It is time for those who are believers… who love Jesus… and care for the Bride of Christ to conduct themselves as such. It is time for Christians to carry out what God commands about forgiveness, mercy, restoration, and reconciliation. Not preachers… not staff either. Deacons. Opinion leaders. The people who tell pastors in secret they support them to do so openly! Why? Keep reading…

For a while I have been observing a significant number of ministers suffering and hurting… silently… in private… unbeknownst to many. I must say that I have been surprised by the depth and significance of the pain these men are enduring. People who are supposed to be relating to them according to Hebrews 13:17 (“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”)  is appalling. I’ve seen it so many times I am close to agreeing with the piccy to the right…

The depth of pain and hurt inflicted on ministers (Primarily Pastors) by church members is just not right! As I hear my brother’s stories I ask… Where is love? Where is forgiveness? Where is grace? Where is mercy? What happened to compassion?! Yes, I AM defensive for my brothers in the ministry! Yes, I am incensed at the way pastors are treated. I ask… “How long oh Lord will You allow this to continue?”

Consider: Five years after graduating seminary 50% will have quit the ministry. 1,700 ministers are fired every month in the U.S. Why is such true? Because of how dysfunctional many congregations are.

When a pastor (Because he didn’t have good “leadership skills”) is given two weeks to get out of the house and two weeks severance, something is wrong. When a pastor is told he doesn’t have a vision the same as the staff and therefore he must resign, something is terribly wrong. When deacons allow church members to spread rumors and lies about the pastor that undercut his credibility with the congregation, there is a problem (Not with the pastor!). When it is acceptable for the tail to wag the dog in a congregation (Rejecting a pastor’s leadership), that fellowship is dysfunctional. When church leadership refuse to support the pastor because the people they’d have to confront are their friends, well… what can be said?

Disappointed? Almost. This I know, there are wolves among the sheep and tares among the wheat. The problem is at times it is difficult to tell the two apart. Sometimes it isn’t. It is obvious a person is a believer when they seek: Reconciliation, forgiveness, show mercy… grace… and compassion, to those who they don’t understand… necessarily agree with… and especially with those who have failed.

I’m done now…

I Heard They’re Having Problems…

Note: This is a follow-up to a previous post.  I am thankful that I now serve a church that has been known for being a harmonious, peaceful, and loving congregation (Huffman Baptist Church).  This is not to say there haven’t been difficulties, they just handle them in a manner that honors God and doesn’t cause division among God’s people.  That is not the case in all churches.  

While it is God’s will that His people live in harmony, peace, and unity… there are times that doesn’t happen.  Consider what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:17-20…

But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.

Interesting indeed!  “There MUST be factions among you…”  Why?  So that those who are genuine are recognized.  Which by implication means that those who are NOT genuine are also recognized… exposed… shown to all.  When a church… any church… has disharmony, disunity, or division… Satan has somehow wormed his way into the congregation.  The reason I say that is because “God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33).  Therefore if/when the peace of a congregation is lost, it isn’t because of God!

How are those who are not genuine identified?  Let me suggest a few things (Those who are genuine have the opposite of these true in their life)…

They are more concerned with getting their way than protecting the reputation of God, the Faith, and congregation.

They are more concerned with getting their way than doing what is best for the good of the church as a whole.

They have an attitude of anger, condemnation, and threats rather than humility and grace.

They spread rumors and gossip that undermines the good name of church leaders.  a

They threaten to… Not give financially to the church, OR move their membership, OR take it to the floor of the church for a vote, OR many other things to get their way.

They do not listen to explanations, reasons, or try discover truth… all they want is is their way regardless of the effect on the church.

And here’s the big one: They are not willing to forgive if/when a person (Deacon, committee Member, Church Member, Ministerial Staff Member) has made a mistake.  They want them punished… removed… or disciplined harshly.  Along with their unwillingness to forgive, they are unwilling to reconcile with those who may have made a mistake…. which is in direct contradiction to Scripture.

No church is perfect.  However, when there is conflict “those who are genuine” are know by their determination to follow the Scripture in dealing with it.  Sadly… too many churches today don’t follow God’s outline for dealing with conflict.  I am thankful that I serve a congregation that has a history of honoring God in this area.

How Christians Defeat Satan!

The following passage is interesting in that Paul writes about one of the best ways to defeat Satan.  Consider 2 Cor 2:10-11…

Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

Did you catch it?  Forgiveness is a major weapon to defeat Satan.  His designs (schemes) are to use offenses between believers to divide and conquer.  As humans, there are times we say/do things that do offend each other.  The answer… to keep Satan from winning a battle… is to forgive.  Otherwise division within the body will fester and could cause great harm to the cause of Christ.

God takes division within the Body seriously.  Those who participate in division by either letting it continue or causing it put themselves in a dangerous place before God.  After all, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  Consider the following texts…

Proverbs 6:16 There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17  haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

Romans 16:17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

Titus 3:10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

In Acts (Click here) there was a couple that sold property but kept back some of the money for themselves along with control of the property.  This put a black eye on the reputation of the early church.  As a result, God struck the husband and wife dead because their actions brought potential harm to the Body of Christ.

Then in 1 Corinthians (Click here) there were people who by their actions were causing division within the church.  Paul was quick to point out that God would not tolerate those who cause divisions within the Body by causing some of them to be… “weak, sick, and some of you have died.”  God takes it seriously when people cause division within the body.

The approach believers must take in relation to the unity of the fellowship is that the Church is the Bride of Christ.  As such, the peace and unity of the Bride is of tremendous importance.  If/when someone offends, forgiveness must be granted… quickly… by all parties.  If a person continually causes trouble in the church, then Romans 16 and Titus 3 instruct about how they’re to be treated.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against Satan and his demons.  That means we fight him with the weapons God has given us… one of which is forgiveness as found in 2 Corinthians 2:10-11!

So when someone offends you… know who is behind it (Satan) and be one who is quick to forgive!

Churches Having Problems… (Part 1)

Jesus said, “I will build My church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)  NOTE: Monday’s post will explore the other side of this coin… “Churches Glorifying God” will be the title (God willing).

I believe Jesus… Satan will NOT overcome The Universal Church.  At the same time, I am troubled as I hear about  congregations and the troubles taking place within them!  Consider the following situations I’ve heard of from reliable friends in the past two weeks… (Caveat: None of these are the church I presently serve.):

Church #1: Long time pastor was called to another congregation.  An interim came that many in the church wanted to become their pastor.  The search team disagreed.  The interim left… a battle started between the search team and congregation… last Sunday night about one third of the congregation left the church for good.

Church #2: A church in a growing community called a staff member that became the source of contention within the staff… and the congregation.  As a result of this, and a few other factors, people began leaving.  Now the attendance is close to half of what it was 5 years ago because of the problems. Many are wondering what is going on and don’t know what to do.

Church #3: At one time this church was the flagship congregation of the town.  It was involved in missions and birthing other congregations.  Many young men were called to the ministry there.  Now the church is running a fraction of what they had in the past.  There is confusion and disharmony after a long tenured pastor left.  It only got worse when the music minister left under pressure.  Now the church cannot decide what to do as more people continue to leave.

Church #4. Then there is the congregation where the pastor absconded with tens of thousands of dollars… of course it was church money.  The church terminated him, but chose not to prosecute according to 1 Corinthians 6:7.  However, the Lord has a sharp pencil and a long memory for such men…

Church #5. Attendance has been going down for a number of years.  As a result the church leadership decided to save money by terminating a support staff member.  So they called him in… gave him a two week notice… and that was that.  No severance… no other explanation… no help in finding another place of ministry.  In two weeks he was out on his own with no help from the church he’d served for a number of years.

My Personal Experience: The first three churches I served fired the pastor prior to me with the third one pressuring 5 of 7 pastors leave (Going back to 1953), and that does not include other ministerial staff.  The fourth church I served had competing factions and constant arguing that came close to splitting the congregation at one point.

Given these situations and what Jesus said, one of these statements is true…

Jesus was wrong… OR…

Satan is more powerful than God… OR…

The church is not being the church.

Of these options, the third is happening and is the only answer that fits the question.  The church is not being the church. How can that be?  Here are a few suggestions… (Remember, tomorrow I’ll write about the opposite of these situations {God willing}):

A pastor’s administrative skills and visiting are more important to many churches than the strong preaching and exposition of Scripture.  And the church has suffered…

Infighting, power, and control are major issues within the congregation when it comes to making decisions.  Rather than follow the Shepherd God has given the congregation to lead them, people have bucked what God put in place for how the church is to function.  In other words, the sheep are running the show.

Ministers are lacking in servant leadership skills (1 Peter 5).  Staff are not held accountable for improper conduct and/or a poor work ethic.  Bottom line, many staff are unqualified to serve in a church and their ineptitude is harming the congregation.

The wolves and tares in the congregation are not being handled the way Scripture commands.  This means in many instances the tail wags the dog and the church is suffering.

What is the answer? CLICK HERE. Revival.  Awakening.  Reformation.  Faithful servant ministers.  Godly leadership.  Prayer.  Repentance.  Forgiveness.  Love.

Do You Have This Blind Spot?

blindfold  Every now and then God takes a verse of Scripture and drives it like a stake into my heart.  He pushes it so deep into my soul and spirit that it almost literally hurts.  The pain is called the conviction of the Spirit.  Truthfully, it is really difficult when God reveals to you one of your blind spots.  This is the verse…

   Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?  Or am I trying to please man?  If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Is keeping a lifelong friend more important than taking a stand that is Biblically right?  Is the acceptance of people who have power and influence more important than supporting something you know is right at your church.  Is it more important to keep your job or please your boss than making a stand for what honors God?  Would you rather be left alone than suffer because you make a stand?

“It has been granted to you by God not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil 1:29).

Here’s how most people make decisions: What does my best friend beleive?  What will it cost me to make this stand?  What will I gain by joining this group?  What is the path of least pain?  What is the position the people I am closest to on this matter?

Truth!  If you seek to honor God… please Him… serve Him… proclaim His truth… and make Him first in your life, you WILL suffer!  It WILL cost you!  You WILL have it hard and have to make decisions that will cause you loss.

Eventually you will have to decide if you are going to please men (Which includes yourself) or you will please God.  Pleasing men and/or yourself will put you in opposition to God.  Pleasing God will put you in opposition to men and yourself.  It is impossible to please both God and man (CLICK).

The place where this is most likely to happen (From my experience) is in church.  You are going to be pressured most by others who also identify with Christ.  And so a decision will have to be made

1 Samuel 2:30b, “Honor God and He will honor you.”

Sarah Palin And Church Gossip

Sarah Palin is right in what she said about anonymous comments… “It’s mean-spirited, it’s immature, it’s unprofessional, and those guys are jerks.”  It was while reading Ray Pritchard’s blog about this as related to church that I reflected some…

Since I’m a pastor and think often about church, here are my 2 cents worth.  As everyone else who has been in the ministry any length of time can say, I’ve been the object of anonymous gossip… lies… rumors… half truths… and deceit at church.

Let me say quickly… I LOVE THE CHURCH!  I love church people!  I’ve devoted my life to serving, helping, encouraging, and supporting the Bride of Christ.  Nothing I write in this blog has caused me today to be even close to walking away from her or turning my back on my call!  Sometimes only those who love us the most know us the best and are able to speak the truth in love about us.  That is my point in this post…

church-lady  The #1 source of problems in church is gossip, and most of it is from anonymous sources.  People hear something… twist and turn it to their liking… and then tell others.  Then that person tells another… whether or not what they’ve heard is true... and then another… and another… and before long the church is in chaos.  Satan has a foothold… and the health of the congregation is in deep trouble… Christians, ministers, and ministries are wounded.

  TRUTHS: If you didn’t SEE it yourself, you don’t know!  Just because something is true doesn’t mean it should be told.  If someone will gossip to you about someone else, they will gossip to someone else about you!

  You have no idea how many times church members and deacons say: “I’ve had a number of phone calls…”   I’m hearing rumblings…” “Quite a few people have said…” “There are people who are unhappy…” “I don’t know if this is true, BUT…”  “You need to be praying about…” (Sometimes this is just a form of Christian Gossip!) “From what I hear it doesn’t look good…” “I can’t tell you who told me, but…”  {That one is especially evil}  All those quotes, and similar ones, are improper… divisive… and used by Satan to sow seeds of discord and disharmony within the church.  From my experience and observation some church staff are as guilty as anyone else.

If a person won’t put their name to what they’ve said, then they and their comment should be ignored.

I admire those who are willing to take a black eye in order to protect the reputation of others (Pr 10:12Pr 11:13, Pr 17:9).  I saw people and a committee do that in the church I served in Oxford, AL regarding a staff member I served with.  Yet there is a difference between protecting someone’s reputation and passing along gossip.  I’ve always told people where I served, if you know something about me, I don’t care who you tell as long as you tell the whole story and what you KNOW to be true.

In other words, rumors and hearsay does not count as something a person KNOWS!

God commands His people to be different from the world.  God commands His people to speak the truth in love.  God commands that His people are to be reconcilers.  God commands that His people are to work things out privately.  God commands that His people are to say only what is good for building people up. God commands that His people are to love one anotherforgive one another… and be of one mind.

Can that last paragraph be true of an entire church?  Yes.  Can that last paragraph be true of us… me and you?  Yes!  What it takes is simply making a conscious choice to honor God and conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ… no matter what anyone else does!

Let’s try it… just you and me… and see what God does!

Theological Disagreement, Debates, And Discussions

  What do you believe about: Baptism… The Second Coming… Revival… God’s Sovereignty…  Speaking In Tongues… Once Saved, Always Saved… The Lord’s Supper… etc?  Whatever view you hold, I hope you know that there are Christians (That love Jesus, pray, and study their Bible as faithfully as you do) who don’t believe the same way as you.  You probably attend church with them.  They may be close friends.  They might even be your pastor or Sunday School teacher.

If someone doesn’t believe like us, that doesn’t make them our enemy.  If we don’t believe like them, that doesn’t mean we should withdraw fellowship from them.  When there are differences, that doesn’t mean it is our job to correct what we think are their erroneous beliefs. I am not talking about heretical issues, I’m talking about people who are Christians, regarding matters about which there is room for disagreement.

Sadly, too many Christians (And some pastors!) like to argue.  They are aggressive in the way they talk to and about those who believe differently from them.  They throw the church… the Bride of Christ… into chaos and confusion as a result.  They cause people to stumble away from the cross instead of toward it.  Paul said he wished people like that would emasculate themselves.  If you don’t know what emasculate means, click here.

There are not to be arguments and disagreements in the church.  Doctrine should be a uniting factor, not one that divides.  If a denomination, or the church you attend, believes differently from you on what you believe is a significant issue… it is better to go somewhere else than cause difficulties within the fellowship!

When it comes to disagreement over doctrine with other believers, consider a well known quote and then more importantly, what God wrote…

Augustine: “In essentials, unity; In doubtful matters, liberty; In all things, charity (Love).”

1 Corinthians 8:1b Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.

Paul wrote some important things about differences of opinion in regards to doubtful matters (Several references are linked in that last sentence.  Please click them all).

He also wrote it was unhealthy discussions within the church that caused friction and should be avoided.  My thought: Unity of the body is sometimes more important than correcting others who disagree with us in doubtful matters.  Paul went on to tell Timothy that quarreling (Debating?  Arguing?) only ruins the faith of those who hear and THAT was why Timothy was to have sound doctrine himself.

Because of doctrinal error, Paul wrote for Timothy to minister the Word to God’s people with complete patience.  Timothy (And by extension all pastors) are to teach sound doctrine to God’s people… to protect them from heresy.  This takes time… patience… and prayer to accomplish.  This must be done in the church because there is a lot of doctrinal heresy floating around these days.

Depending on the person, the “essentials” Augustine referenced may be different.  And once you make a list, someone will challenge and critique it.  So I know that once I write down what my “essentials” are, I will be challenged… and that’s okay.  Someone will argue I left something out… and after they make their case I may agree with them.  Anyway… here’s my short list.  These I will not budge on to any degree.

The Trinity.

The virgin birth.

The deity and humanity of Christ.

The death of Jesus on the cross.

The substutionary atonement of Christ.

The bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Salvation is in Jesus Christ alone.

Salvation is by grace through faith.

The sure return of Christ.

Past those things there are a number of matters I hold dear and about which I have strong beliefs.  But they are NOT a test of my willingness to fellowship.  Yet there are matters not included in the list above that are important enough to defend strongly and with great passion.